Parchment Fish with Black Bean, Coconut, and Lime Sauce

You know how much I love make-ahead dishes. My golden rule in my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, is to always do “one or two make-ahead dishes—one in the oven and one on the cooktop. This makes for a relaxed host!”

When perusing my archives recently, I stumbled upon this post from almost six years ago for parchment fish. My daughter Alex calls it fish in a bag which is essentially what it is. You use parchment to create little pouches of flavor.

The best part about this is that it’s a great “make-ahead” meal. When you’re having guests for a dinner party, just put these together in the morning, pop them into the fridge and pull them out right before guests arrive. Bring them to room temp and pop them into the oven for 20 minutes and voila… dinner is in the bag!

Parchment Fish with Black Bean, Coconut, and Lime Sauce
Serves 4

You will need:

– 4 1/2 lb. pieces of wild salmon (or other fish of your choice; I also like Sea Bass)
– 2 cups snow peas
– 1 red pepper – cut into thin strips about 1/8 ” wide X 4″ long
– 3/4 cup black bean sauce, available in most markets.
– 1 lime 1/2 for juice and 1/2 for slices
– 1 garlic clove minced
– 1 teaspoon soy sauce
– 1/4 cup coconut milk
– 4 parchment squares 16″x16″
– 1/2 cup cilantro leaves as garnish

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Wash and clean the salmon. Pat dry and remove the skin (you can have the fishmonger do this for you if you like).

In a small bowl combine black bean sauce, lime juice from 1/2 lime, and minced garlic, soy sauce, coconut milk. Whisk until combined.

Lay a bed for the fish of 5-6  snow peas, and 5-6 strips of pepper in the middle of the parchment. Lay the salmon on top of the veggies, and spoon 4 tablespoons over the salmon, garnish with a lime slice.

To make a package, fold 2 flaps on either side of the fish over the fish while holding the flaps shut in the middle of the fish, pull the opposite 2 flaps over and hold on top, and roll together so the fold rolls over the fish forming a package. Squeeze the roll tightly and wrap the ends of the roll under itself into the ends of the roll, securing it shut.

Place the packages into a ceramic baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

I like to serve this over brown rice.

When you pull these out of the oven, place rice on the plate and open the package and carefully pour the fish with veggies and sauce over the rice, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve warm.

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My Seasonal Vegetable Grain Bowl

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Ciao everyone! As you know, I am in Italy. Every Tuesday, we have a lovely little outdoor market in our village. I try to go every week and load up on what’s seasonal in the veggie department. I try to eat at least one veggie grain bowl per week, sometimes two.

One thing I always have in the fridge are my pickled red onions from my book Picture Perfect Parties *(recipe included below). They add a nice tangy flavor to any salad or grain bowl. The grain I used here is Farro. It’s grown locally, and I use it in soups and all sorts of dishes. It will also be featured in my upcoming cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, releases Spring 2022. The cookbook is about the Lunigiana, the region we live in. It’s a really delicious grain.

These grain bowls, like the one pictured above, are a great way to incorporate seasonal vegetables into your diet. Try this bowl and let me know how you like it in the comments below. No need to stick to the vegetables I used in my bowl. Be creative and try your own versions.

Seasonal Vegetable Grain Bowl
Makes 2 bowls

You will need:

– 1/2 avocado sliced
– 1/4 cup Pickled Onions
– 2 cups Kale, I use Cavalo Nero *I bake this and it adds a lovely crunch to the bowl.
– 2 cups sweet potato peeled
– 2 cups Cauliflower
– 1 cup Arugula
-1 teaspoon Maldon Salt
– 2 tablespoons Balsamico
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 hard boiled eggs
– 1 cup Farro
– 1 1/2 cups Water

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Cut the cauliflower and the peeled sweet potato into bite size pieces, sprinkle with oil and salt, place into the oven for 45 minutes, until fork tender. Cut the Kale into bite size pieces and add to the baking sheet of sweet potatoes and cauliflower 30 minutes into baking time. The Kale will become crisp. Remove and cool. While the vegetables are baking. In a small sauce pan place water and Farro. Let simmer stirring a few times to prevent sticking, cook until all the water is absorbed about 30 minutes, set aside to cool.

To Assemble:

In a large bowl, add Farro, then Arugula, kale, sweet potatoes, then cauliflower into quadrants of the bowl. Add avacado slices, then pickled onion, and 1 egg sliced in half, then drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with Maldon salt. To eat toss everything together in the bowl and enjoy!

Pickled Red Onions

You will need:

– 1 large red onion sliced thin
– 1 cup red wine vinegar
– 2 tablespoons salt
– 1 teaspoon celery seed or peppercorns
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– ½ cup water

To prepare:

In a sauce pan put all the ingredients, and bring to a boil allow about 1 minute to cook. Turn off heat and let steep until cool. Put into a mason jar and place in the refrigerator for 2 days before using. Can be stored for up to 2 weeks.

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Spaghetti Carbonara

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Full disclosure: this is not my favorite pasta dish, however, it is quick easy, and most people LOVE it.

You most likely have many of the ingredients for spaghetti carbonara on hand, and I believe that it can be a recipe open to interpretation. It basically involves pasta, cured pork, hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino, black pepper, and eggs. To me, it’s similar, in some ways, to the Roman pasta dish pasta cacio e uova.

Supposedly this dish first burst on the scene in 1950, which I believe, because it smacks of the 20th century. It is absent from my favorite Italian cookbook, Ada Boni’s 1930 La Cucina Romana (her regional cookbook is available on Amazon in English, the Romana is in Italian) one of the best cookbooks of all time. I don’t make it often, but it appeared on the internet recently as “Carbonara Day” on instagram which I found rather humorous. Even funnier was that I actually made it. Talk about being influenced! I am embarrassed to say I was.

So here’s my recipe, I am sure you’ll love it. It’s comforting and creamy, like bowl of mac and cheese tossed with a little crispy bacon. It actually reminds me of breakfast: bacon, eggs and cheese with spaghetti. No wonder people love it.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 4

You will need:
– 1 lb.  dried Spaghetti
– 8 ounces Speck, proscuttio, or bacon. Basically, a cured pork product cut into bite size pieces
– 3 large eggs scrambled
– 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, pecorino, or any hard cheese
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

To prepare:

Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta). In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Salt boiling water generously; add a tablespoon of salt to the water. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs and parmesan. Set aside.

Using a spider, remove pasta from the water and place it into the bowl, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to the egg mixture. Add bacon; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from pasta will cook eggs). Serve immediately, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Truffle Pasta

After Monday’s post all about truffles, I’ve been dreaming about this truffle pasta from the archives. It’s delicious and a great way to enjoy the flavors of truffles. You can sub zucchini for any other seasonal squash, or another veggie of your choice. Get creative with it, and let the truffles take center stage!

Truffle Pasta
serves 4

You will need:
– – Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound whole-wheat dried spaghettini
– 3/4 pound zucchini sliced into coins
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 tablespoons minced garlic (NOTE: I always use a micro planer to grate the fresh garlic into the oil)
– 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
– 3 tablespoons truffle oil

To prepare:
Cut the zucchini into thin coins then put oil and grate fresh garlic into a skillet. Heat oil and garlic and add zucchini, saute on high heat until the zucchini is evenly browned. In the meantime, boil the pasta on high, until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the zucchini, and toss with cheese.
Pull off heat and put pasta into a bowl, finish with the truffle oil, salt and pepper. I also like adding truffle salt if you have it. Serve hot with a nice salad.

Serve and enjoy!

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The Truffle Hunters Movie

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Many years ago, I happily achieved one of the life goals on my bucket list. I went to the White Truffle Festival in Alba, Italy. For many years I hoped to attend, and when I finally did, it truly was a highlight, an experience that I will never forget. I had been to Alba many times the Piedmont region as it was close to where we lived in Alassio. I would always walk down the main street and visit one of my favorite stores, a tiny very chic boutique Tartufi Ponzi. They carry all sorts of truffle-infused products along with beautiful fresh white truffles which are all displayed under lock and key in the front window. One of my favorite products is their truffle potato chips. Always perfect for aperitivo.

As most of you know, I am obsessed with truffles, and truffle hunting, and the business of truffles. I was able to return to Alba a couple of years ago when I took the La Fortezza Workshop team, the chef, Philip, and the guest liaison, Rachel, to the 2018 Slow Food Festival in Bra, Italy. The city of Bra is right next door to Alba. Of course, I had to take the team to visit my favorite truffle store in Alba Tartufi Ponzi.

As luck would have it, that evening Gianfranco, the owner, was in the store. He was delightful, telling us all about his business, the wholesale/manufacturing business and the retail store started by his parents. One of the charming stories he told us is that when he was a kid, he was not thrilled about this family business. He told us that kids would tease him and say that they could tell he was coming because of the smell of truffles that preceeded him. We all laughed when he told us the story.

We talked and shopped for an hour. In passing, I asked him where he would recommend we have dinner. He was so kind and made us a reservation at his favorite restaurant in Alba immediately. He joined us at the restaurant when he closed up the store. We had the most delicious truffle-infused meal. Of course, the truffles at the restaurant were supplied by Gianfranco. In fact, he is a bit of a rock star in Alba as you can imagine. I felt I had made a new friend. Gianfranco and I have indeed become friends we keep in touch; he’s just the nicest guy and I hope to see him this year.

Speaking of this year, some exciting news is that Gianfranco was the fixer and on a new movie/documentary called The Truffle Hunters. I asked Gianfranco a few questions about how he became involved, and what his role was in helping make this movie happen. I am so excited to share this interview with you.

Q: How did you participate in the film, I remember you telling me that you helped with arranging the activities and organizing the truffle hunters that appeared in the movie?

A: I actively participated in the film. I was what they call a fixer, the liaison between the filmmaker and the truffle hunters in the Piedmont. I am very connected in this world given my decades of experience in the world of truffles. I helped connect the filmmakers with my friends and my relatives, these are the people I work with every day in my business. I helped the filmmakers unlock our world, a world that is little known and sometimes secretive. I loved being part of introducing the world to our world. A place filled with the natural beauty around us. The world of white truffles cannot be studied in books. Truffle hunting is a skill passed down verbally over generations. I was fortunate to be born into a family of truffle hunters. My family taught me everything that I needed to know.

Q: How did you meet the filmmaker?

A: I met Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw during the annual White Truffle Festival. They came into my shop and from there we started a wonderful collaboration. It was amazing that I could even stop to talk to them. This is a time that there are tons of people in our shop. We were all busy selling truffles. It was a tough time for me and my family as well, my Father was very ill and I had to manage the store and help my Mother. The highlight was the filmmakers asking me to help with this project. It gave me something to look forward to during this challenging time. We communicated, and I got an idea of what they were looking for. Once they arrived to film, I had everything arranged for them. So many wonderful people allowed themselves to be filmed, I was so grateful.

Q: Who do you sell your truffles to in the US?

A: Thanks to this new world of technology, it is much easier. Our website has connected us to the world. Currently, we are working on our online store. But most of our customers contact us by e-mail or by phone. Our clients include serious foodies and chefs. We sell to some of the best restaurants in the world. Our mission is to select the truffles with care the best quality white truffles. We pack them the day they come out of the earth. We ship them in refrigerated packaging, so they arrive fresh. Each order includes instructions to better enjoy our “Gold of the Langhe”.

Q: How has Covid-19 affected your business?

A: At the beginning of 2020, we never thought that a virus could change our lives so much. In the first months in lock-down, we did not have white truffles. Then summer came, work resumed and in September the white truffle season finally started. Then another lock-down arrived. We had to assess how we would make our business work, like so many.  Our truffle hunters were out hunting, so we were able to ship every Monday and Tuesday until the end of last year. Lucky for us, we had customers that were ordering although business was definitely affected. We are so grateful for our loyal customers. We are hoping to welcome everyone back this fall. It was a big adjustment, but we are tough and we will be alright.  I believe all of us will be alright.

Q: How has this film impacted your business?

A: The Film was viewed at a few film festivals in 2020. It will be distributed in 2021; look for it online in May. We were lucky that in October  2020, they were able to organize the White Truffle Festival and people from neighboring regions were able to travel.  A Swiss girl in front of my shop recognized me from the film and was thrilled to have found us. She saw the movie at The Zurigo Film Festival. I was very pleased. So the film is slowly starting to circulate. I am sure that once the film is readily available to view, we will enjoy some notoriety. Which obviously I look forward to since it will be great for business.

Q: How did the film impact the people featured in the film?

A: It was all so surreal, the stars of the documentary are humble people from our countryside. They have always lived a simple and quiet life and suddenly they were thrown into the spotlight. Yet I was not surprised they did a great job sharing their rich lives with the filmmakers. It was fun to hear our villagers speaking in dialect during filming. It is such a real slice of our daily life. It is an authentic view of how we work here in the Piedmont. The documentary really highlights the struggles and victories of the truffle hunters and their friends and family. I feel it has never been seen before. The documentary is a beautiful memory for them to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

Q: How long have you been working in the Truffle business?

A: Since I was a child, I have always had truffles in my hands because my mother and her sister started the business with a restaurant that shaved truffles on pasta and risotto. My aunt opened a company of truffle products. My mom started the shop in 1987; she started selling truffles and my aunt’s preserved products. The world of truffles has evolved, and we have as well. Now I run a truffle boutique that is highly successful. My cousins have since taken over running the company that develops and manufactures truffle-infused products. As you can see it’s a family affair. We distribute fresh truffles all over the world, and fresh truffles are sold in our shop as well. I’ve been living on truffles for almost 40 years. As a child, my breakfast was biscuits and truffle milk. Every morning my mother and I went to the truffle hunter’s house to collect the morning truffles, and we would have the freshly picked truffles in the fridge.

Q: I was curious when he said truffle milk so I asked Gianfranco “What truffle milk was?”

A: He told me that in the early years, they had just one refrigerator in the house. So all the truffles for the shop were stored in that fridge. All the food in the fridge became infused with truffle flavor, the eggs, the cheese, and the milk. So when he would drink milk it tasted of truffles. Wild, I love it.

Q: Tell us about some of the special products in your store.

A: The products are constantly evolving year after year. We study new recipes, new colors, and we are always improving to keep up with people’s requests and needs. For some years we have embarked on the path of organic products, gluten-free products, and some vegan, always maintaining the taste and aroma of our truffles. We have created a line of freeze-dried truffles, that is truffle flakes ready to be re-hydrated in hot butter and consumed as fresh almost as good as fresh. I must say that this new line is very popular. We sell most of this product to America, China and Japan. You can eat white truffles at any time of the year by purchasing our dehydrated or preserved products. Our best sellers are white truffle salt best on meat and fish, white truffle powder that can be used on everything, as you would use spices, organic white truffle butter, and white truffle cream. Available online.

My favorite products are the white truffle chocolates and the white truffle potato chips and the dehydrated truffle is crazy good, let’s face it I love it all…except maybe truffle milk, hahaha.

Thank you Gianfranco ci vediamo a presto, can’t wait to see you again. x

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Gianfranco and I in front of his shop

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Me at the Truffle Festival for the first time

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White Truffles for Sale

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the most incredible, 40 egg angel hair pasta heaped with white truffles.

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Gianfranco’s daily haul of white truffles

Here’s the trailer for The Truffle Hunters. I hope you enjoy it.

Look for The Truffle Hunters streaming by mid May 2021.

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